Key Points

Like other philanthropic organizations during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jim Joseph Foundation took steps to loosen grant requirements, support CEOs and leadership teams, and provide funding for emergencies and innovations.

The foundation, which strives to bring consistent expertise with evaluation and research in untroubled times and whose mission is to foster effective Jewish learning experiences for young Jews, has a unique perspective when reflecting on learning. So another area that required flexibility was in the re-examination of learning plans to take advantage of the “forced experimentation” imposed by the pandemic lockdown.

In March 2020, the foundation paused ongoing research and evaluation projects to determine the extent to which the pandemic and economic crisis would impact the quality of the data, and then crafted new learning questions and plans to take advantage of the opportunities in the moment. It pivoted to redeploy resources within ongoing projects and funded new studies that allowed for fast turnaround of findings. Studies looked at how the internal foundation team responded to the crisis, how grantee-partners pivoted to online programming, and how the crisis and online programming were experienced by target populations.

This article reflects on what the foundation learned from being open to redirecting evaluation and research, and how that learning has impacted future planning. Sometimes a crisis brings value — and the sooner that understanding and mindset is embraced, the better.

Open Access